FBC United Hunt dominates elite 17 and Under National Division in convincing fashion
By Bob Corwin
Coaches and fans attending the 19th Annual Deep South Classic, presented by The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance and ASGR Basketball and held April 20-23, 2017, at the Raleigh (North Carolina) Convention Center, witnessed a dominating performance by FBC United Hunt in the 17U Division. All told 416 teams played out 844 games. Approximately 230 colleges (mostly NCAA Division 1 but also an ample number of NCAA Division 2 and 3 plus NAIA schools) primarily from the eastern USA and Midwest evaluated the action along with several national and regional scouting services. Quite a few schools sent more than one evaluator so the number of college coaches actually present was likely well past 300!
With 20 courts active at all times, there was plenty to see at the Convention Center. Depending on age, teams were placed in brackets ranging from 14 & under up to 17 and under with each bracket containing 16 teams. This provided a four-game guarantee with bracket winners in all but 14 and under getting one or two more games in unifying post-bracket play. Almost every court was packed with fans (maybe 50 seats) with another row often standing behind waiting to pounce on any seat vacated. Several times I found myself sitting on the edge of a court on the floor!
While there was plenty of upper class talent to dwell on, the number of quality eighth and ninth graders was a pleasant development. One might ask how you go about choosing which courts to watch to find the highest quality players at the event. Sometimes it is club reputation that draws you to a court. Sometimes it is pure accident as in arriving early for an upcoming game only to have an unexpected stellar performance drop into your lap!
Need to be seen
Sadly, relatively few NCAA Division 1 colleges randomly go watch high school in-season single games. Thus, most players need to put themselves in a position to be seen. Events such as the Deep South allow prospects exposure to dozens of college evaluators not to mention regional and national scouting services. Players performing well in one of these events can greatly increase their options of choice of college and potential scholarships.
Picking up the action with the overall final of the top four brackets of the 17U National Division…
FBC United Hunt U17 60-35 Illinois Lady Lightning Platinum Martinez U17
Each team had already won a 16-team bracket and defeated another bracket winner earlier Sunday morning. Thus one might expect a relatively competitive contest. It just wasn’t. FBC led 38-27 at half and the gap just continued to grow in the second stanza. Talent differential was the major factor. FBC (based out of Georgia) started a Power 5 unit while the Illinois-based squad started a team of likely future D1 players with just a couple of possible future Power 5’s mixed in. Six FBC players tallied between eight and eleven points in the contest while the opposition had only one (see Nicole Baird comments below) who scored more than five.
Post-game, United’s coach Keisha Hunt indicated that only one game at the event was relatively close (15 points) at game’s end. Her squad was tall (starting four six-feet tall or bigger), athletic and very capable of hitting threes.
Below we take a look at a few of many talented players at Raleigh. These stood out for something they did at the event or due to some special talent that is in the process of being developed. Also, players profiled within the last year were mostly passed over for others not previously featured. All mentioned have a good chance of being NCAA Division 1 players in the future.
Below, players are listed alphabetically within graduation year with listed (sometimes inflated!) height, position, and club team with home town in parenthesis.
Kadaja Bailey, 6-0, forward, New York City Heat U17 (Long Beach, New York)
Committed to St. John’s in New York City, Bailey is a strong penetrator from the wing to baseline area. She will also drive and kick the ball out to open shooters. Her efforts helped her team win the 17 and Under Bracket C
Elizabeth Balogun, 6-1, small forward, FBC United Hunt U17 (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Balogun is considered by many observers (including this one) to be her team’s best player on a team loaded with Power 5 talent. Yes, she can shoot the three (three in the overall final). Perhaps just as impressive is her ability to block a shot and quickly catch the ball soon after sending the action the other way. To say she has good hands would be an understatement!
De’Sha Benjamin, 6-0, guard/forward, Georgia Sting U17 (Augusta, Georgia)
Benjamin, strongly built, is an all-around player with good size. Possessing an above average motor, she does a little bit of everything from scoring in and out of key to rebounding to passing to open teammates. Look for her on a Power 5 team in the future.
Monika Czinano, 6-3, center, Minnesota Fury 2018 Elite U17 (Watertown, Minnesota)
Committed to Iowa, Czinano’s game is a lot like her body, solid. She showed an impressive array of low post moves in finishing around the rim.
Lindsey Jarosinski. 6-4, center, Illinois Lady Lightning Platinum Seberger U17 (Medinah, Illinois)
Jarosinski, a Power 5 level recruit, has been seen by this reporter on occasion over the last several years. Always considered to have great potential, perhaps things are starting to come together as she made her shots (lower key area) and showed more toughness (better defense, shot blocking) as she helped her team to win a U17 consolation bracket.
Izabela Leite, 5-10, point guard, Carolina Waves U17 (Wake Forest, North Carolina)
A member of Brazil’s national program, Leite, a Power 5 level prospect, is strong as well as tall as lead guards go. A fine passer, she runs the fast break well. In the quarter court, she is more penetrator than long range bomber but prefers to think pass first.
Ella Skeens, 5-10, shooting guard, Angels Basketball Club U17 (Chillicothe, Ohio)
For Skeens, shooting a mid-range pull-up jumper is as natural as taking a lay-up. Light on her feet, she plays with an above average motor and makes teammates around her better. She helped her team win the 17 and Under Bracket A. She is choosing from an assortment of Division 1 offers.
Ahlana Smith, 5-9, shooting guard, FBC United Hunt U17 (Charlotte, North Carolina)
New this year to the team, Smith is an explosive athlete. She can go to the rim in a blink of an eye but also has a nice mid-range stroke. Her addition gave FBC United a starting line-up of Power 5 prospects.
Maria Alvarez, 5-7, guard, FGB Team Courtney Williams U17 (Bal Harbor, Florida)
Alvarez most recently made a splash being named MVP (thanks to 3-point shooting) at the Dick’s Nationals. Here she keyed several victories for her team showing some quality handles on top of the scoring. She is getting Power 5 looks.
Nicole Baird, 6-1, forward, Illinois Lady Lightning Platinum Martinez U17 (Wheaton, Illinois)
For the event, Baird was her team’s top performer as her team reached the overall division final losing to FBC United where she scored a team high ten points. She is right-handed but likes to attack the basket going left. She is getting Power 5 looks.
Samantha Brunelle, 6-3, power forward, Team Loaded 2018 Davis U17 (Ruckersville, Virginia)
As might be expected, top level programs were out to see this consensus top 5 national prospect. Brunelle played solid with drives and post-ups and occasional three-ball. With her team winning all but one game at the event, she was not really featured but played more as just one of the squad. She played well enough to please analysts who have her top 5 but not well enough to silence any doubters.
Izabel Deangelo, 6-4, center/forward, Carolina Waves U17 (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Another member of Brazil’s national team program, Deangelo runs well for her size. Still needing to add polish, she showed a nice spin move and passing out of the high post. Power 5 schools are already monitoring if not offering as yet.
Unique Drake, 5-6, guard, South Carolina Future U16 (Columbia, South Carolina)
Drake does a bit of everything from perimeter shooting to driving the key. Perhaps she could be more forceful as she appeared a bit passive at times. Getting Division 1 offers, Power 5 schools should be monitoring to see if she raises her game a notch or two.
Angelique Ngalakulondi, 6-2, power forward/center, Rivals Gold U15 (Andover, New Hampshire)
Angelique’s game is based around her powerful but agile frame. Scoring is primarily in the lower paint. Given body type, she moves well. At times it appears she could play harder but there is too much athlete here not to get ultimately get Power 5 offers.
Kayleigh Truong, 5-9, point guard, Houston Skyrise Elite U17 (Houston, Texas)
Kayleigh is very dynamic in creating and scoring able to dominate as a lead guard. Power 5 schools are likely to be offering.
Kaylynne Truong, 5-8, shooting guard, Houston Skyrise Elite U17 (Houston, Texas)
Twin Kaylynne is a spot up shooter with three-point range and a good defender. Believed to be “a package”, it will be interesting to see just how high up the food chain the bidding will go for these twins.
Jada Burton, 5-8, guard, Carolina Hoopzters U14 (Lyman, South Carolina)
In one contest versus FGB Team LaDazhia Williams 14U, Burton showed she can dominate a game beating a respectable opponent. She has a nice perimeter stroke to complement drives finishing with contact. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Allison Campbell, 5-11, guard, Central PA Dynamite 2020 U15 (Altoona, Pennsylvania)
Sometimes, you find a quality player by pure accident. Campbell was playing an opponent I came to watch. In crushing that team, this offensively versatile freshman stood out by initiating the offense but often scoring the ball as well. Right-handed, she prefers to go left to drive. She also showed a nice step-back perimeter stroke. Coming onto the event with a couple of modest Division 1 offers, she will likely be getting Power 5 inquiries in the weeks ahead.
Nyah Leveretter, 6-3, forward, SC 76ers Sizzle U14 (Blythewood, South Carolina)
Leveretter (high motor) is one of your jump out of the gym front line athletes. She is very willing to pound the boards at either end of the court. Power 5 schools are already lining up.
Loyal McQueen, 5-7, point guard, SC 76ers Sizzle U14 (Darlington, South Carolina)
As a coach’s daughter, McQueen, a lefty, combines the skill (handles, shooting range) with the understanding to run the point while still being above average athletically. Power 5 schools are also lining up here.
Blair Schoenwald, 5-8, guard, Team B-Wright 2020 gold U15 (Brentwood, Tennessee)
A lefty, Schoenwald shoots the three well. Off the ball, she is very active. On defense she is constantly giving help. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Brooke Schramek, 6-2, small forward, Illinois Lady Lightning Platinum Martinez U17 (Naperville, Illinois)
Schramek is considered among the top 2020’s in Illinois. She drives the baseline well using her strong build. She has perimeter range but currently her shot is a bit flat. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Madeline Westbeld, 6-2, small forward, Angels Basketball Club U17 (Kettering, Ohio)
Westbeld’s older sister plays at Notre Dame. While her game is still young, Madeline’s perimeter skills may be further along at the same age having perimeter range and some handles (left still needs improvement). Look for this Westbeld to follow her sister into the majors if she so desires.
Chaniya Clark, 6-4, center, Florida Future Elite U15 (Lakeland, Florida)
Clark is strong bodied with good hands and runs the court acceptably for her size and body type. For a young post, she finishes well at the rim and is developing a nice hook shot. With continued maturation, a Power 5 future should be in the cards.
Raegyn Conley, 6-0, forward, AL Southern Starz 2021-Looney U14 (Apison, Tennessee)
Conley is built in the mold of a long athletic forward. She looks to attack the basket from the wing to baseline area. With a major Division 1 upside, adding shooting range should be one priority.
Caroline Ducharme, 6-0, small forward, MCW Starz/ BDS 2020 U15 (Milton, Massachusetts)
Ducharme (for better or worse as to some it is a burden) has had national rep for over a year. In finally seeing her in person, it appears to be fully justified. She runs the court well having good court vision and passing ability. She can hit the three or post up an opponent. A high major Division 1 future awaits with continued maturation.
O’Mariah Gordon, 5-5, point guard, Florida Future Elite U15 (Sarasota, Florida)
Other than being on the smaller side as point guards go, there is little to criticize in Gordon’s
game. She is fast, quick, has good hands, handles the ball well, leads vocally, can finish at the rim with contact and can shoot the three-ball. Maybe a pull-up jumper could be developed. She helped her team win the 15 and Under Bracket B. If she stays on course, she has a chance to be one of the top 2021 point guards in the USA.
Raven Johnson, 5-8, point guard, FBC Mo YoungGunz U15 (Atlanta, Georgia)
Johnson has no shortage of speed, perhaps too much at times getting out of control. She looks to penetrate when possible, often straight up the key. She helped lead her team to the final in the 15 and Under Bracket B. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Saniya Rivers, 5-10, guard/forward, Flight 22 U17 (Wilmington, North Carolina)
Rivers was another accidental find playing on a modestly talented U17 team which happened to be on a court that had a marquee contest up next. A good athlete, she plays with a calm demeanor and control of a more experienced player. She looks to penetrate to score and is a good passer on the break. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Kayla Thomas, 6-2, center, Havoc City Sol (Reese) U14 (Beltsville, Maryland)
Thomas is another of the very young posts with a Division 1 upside on display in Raleigh. She is strong bodied with good hands and willing to take contact in the lower paint. Skills still need to develop.
Shillae Campbell, 5-2, point guard, South Carolina Stars 13U (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)
Campbell is fairly strongly built for a small, athletic, very young lead guard. Her handles are good and she has a quick release on shot (helpful when so small). Some growth would probably help the most as to college potential.
Bridget Utberg, 5-4, guard, FBC Mo YoungGunz U15 (Canton, Georgia)
Utberg is a wing shooter with three-point range. Fairly strongly built for her age, she moves well and is unafraid to go to the basket although lacking height. Her court vision and basketball IQ are above average. A growth spurt would be most helpful to maximizing potential long term as current height is small as wing shooters go.
Karly Weathers, 5-7, shooting guard, AL Southern Starz 2022 U14 (Loretto, Tennessee)
With both parents former college athletes, Weathers starts off with good genes. Possessing a good motor and above average basketball IQ, she is active at both ends of the court. On offense, she showed an ability to catch and shoot.